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Palpitation is defined as being aware of your heartbeat.

It can be described as fast heart beat, strong heart beat, heavy heart beat.. etc. Many people become terrified when they feel palpitations. Palpitation does not necessarily mean your heart is sick.
Nearly everyone will experience a palpitation at one point or another in their lifetime. For people in good health, it is probably nothing to worry about.

Palpitations are caused by:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks causes palpitations and commonly are mistaken for a heart attack.
  • Stress and depression can cause the heart to race or skip a beat. In addition, some antidepressants can cause arrhythmia and palpitations.
  • Stimulants. Such as coffee, chocolate and energy drinks. Also a wide variety of drugs can affect the regularity and the rate of heart beat.
  • Alcohol. Especially binge drinking is a common source of palpitations. Alcohol withdrawal may cause heart racing and palpitation.
  • Physical Activity. Heavy workouts in the gym can cause the heart to beat much faster because the body needs of blood filled with oxygen and nutrients dramatically increase during exercise.
  • Thyroid disorders. Heartbeat irregularities are a very common symptom of an overactive thyroid this is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as hand tremor, nervousness and weight loss.
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse. Very common in the general population and usually not a serious condition. Mitral valve prolapse causes abnormal sounding heartbeats called (murmur) and can predispose the heart to arrhythmias (heart beat irregularities). Studies have shown that patients with mitral valve prolapse are more prone to experience palpitations.
  • Menopause. Some women complains of heart palpitation during menopause due to the hormonal changes that the body undergoes during this period. Heart rate has been shown to increase by 8-16 beats during time of hot flashes. Some women reported that heart palpitations improve with hormones. Little is known about this phenomenon, as a result women can mistakenly be diagnosed with heart disease and prescribed unnecessary medication.

Some palpitations are symptoms of arrhythmias. Some arrhythmias are signs of heart conditions, such as heart attack, heart failure or heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy). However, less than half of the people who have palpitations have arrhythmias.

When to visit a doctor?

When palpitations happen on a more consistent basis or when palpitations are associated with other symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath it is advisable to visit your general practitioner who will search for the underlying condition that is causing these irregularities.
Usually a good medical history, thorough physical exam and medication review a patient is on can differentiate harmless palpitations from more serious heart rhythm irregularities.
The circumstances surrounding a palpitation episode often provide clues to the etiology. The best way to evaluate palpitations is to document an episode with an electrocardiogram. A portable monitor is sometimes required to record heart rhythm over time, usually for 24 hours.
Harmless palpitations generally do not need monitoring. But anytime an unusual or prolonged palpitation causes concern you should promptly visit your doctor.

Treatment

Treatment for palpitations depends on their cause. Since palpitations are often harmless and go away on their own you only need to avoid things that trigger them such as stress and stimulants. Also yoga and relaxation techniques are very useful to reduce palpitations. Your doctor may prescribe beta blockers for palpitations (medications that slow down a heart beat).

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